Cyclones break out of week-long funk in win over Sooners

Iowa State’s Lindell Wigginton (left) and Nick Weiler-Babb (right) both will be participating in the NBA Summer League after going undrafted in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Noah Rohlfing

Iowa State is becoming a hard basketball team to predict.

It hasn’t been the big, breakthrough season that many thought the Cyclones would have after that signature win against Kansas on Jan. 2. Touted by the likes of ESPN’s Jay Williams as the most talented team in the Big 12, Iowa State has gone from the team most likely to stop the Kansas reign of terror to outside of the Big 12’s top three. 

The Cyclones have big wins over Kansas State, Texas Tech and Ole Miss, among others, but losses to TCU (twice), Baylor (twice) and Arizona have muddied the resume.

Up against an Oklahoma team fighting for its NCAA Tournament life Monday night, Iowa State showed a little bit of everything in the first half. In the second half, Iowa State’s “A” team made its first appearance in three games, finding baskets in transition and playing with high-end energy on both ends of the floor.

After hanging with the Cyclones for 27 minutes, Oklahoma couldn’t keep up in the final stretch. The result was a 78-61 victory for Iowa State.

Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said the Sooners “didn’t make enough good plays.”

“Iowa State did what they needed to do make it tough on us,” Kruger said. 

Win No. 20 for Iowa State was important for a multitude of reasons, but perhaps the most promising development for the Cyclones was the resurgence of redshirt senior guard Marial Shayok. 

Shayok has had some off games recently, with his hot start to the season dissipating. But rock bottom for the senior wing was likely last Saturday, when he scored four points on five shots in the Cyclones’ road loss to TCU. In that game, Shayok sat for 12 minutes in the second half. 

Monday night, Shayok led the Cyclones in scoring and minutes played, hitting 8-of-13 attempts in 36 minutes and scoring a game-high 21 points. 

It was Shayok’s first game shooting 50 percent or better from the floor since the first meeting against Oklahoma on Feb. 4. 

“I just realized I only have a few number of guaranteed games left,” Shayok said of his attitude heading in to Monday’s game. “I just wanted to make sure I have no regrets, whether we finish in the next five games now or we finish in April.”

A newfound sense of urgency from Iowa State — something Shayok admitted the Cyclones were lacking in the past few weeks — showed up in the box score, as the Cyclones outrebounded the Sooners and blocked a season-high seven shots on the defensive end. 

Oklahoma went 10-for-31 from the floor in the second half, missing all eight of its 3-point attempts and struggling to create clear-cut scoring chances. 

“We definitely stepped it up defensively, our energy kinda went through the whole team,” Shayok said.

On the offensive end, pushing in transition created more open shooting opportunities for Iowa State, and after hitting just two of 20 3-pointers against the Horned Frogs, the Cyclones made eight of their 14 second-half attempts from deep. 

Coach Steve Prohm was pleased with how his team responded to the two-game skid. 

“I thought the ball moved a lot better,” Prohm said. “We know we are.

“When we’re locked in and dialed in, we have a chance to be a lot of people, we really do.” 

But Prohm also knows all too well at this point what happens when the Cyclones have had their letdowns.

“If we cut corners, we don’t share the ball, we’re soft on defense, we’re average,” Prohm said. “We needed a win.”

As time is running out on the 2018-19, the Cyclones are still hit-or-miss, but the last 20 minutes against the Sooners were a reminder of what Iowa State can do when it kicks into gear.

Will they stay on the gas against Texas on Saturday or let off again?